Federal supervisors aren’t doing nearly enough to hold poor performers accountable — or keep them from ending up as poor performers in the first place, two chief human capital officers said today.
Reginald Wells of the Social Security Administration and Jeri Buchholz of NASA, speaking at Government Executive’s Excellence in Government conference, agreed that managers need to be more willing to take action when an employee isn’t cutting it. Maybe that means retraining that employee to get him up to snuff, Wells said, or punishing him. But a manager might only need to “call it as it is” and let the employee know he’s falling behind, Wells said.
But supervisors also need to look at themselves, and consider whether they’re managing the employee properly, Wells said:
Very often they end up poor performers because we fail them. We don’t engage them, or they get put on the back burner. There are all kinds of reasons why people become poor performers. We really do have to put an emphasis on how to reach them, give them an opportunity to cure, and if not, encourage them to want other careers or leave government. Because with things being so lean, the days of putting somebody on that back burner are gone. We need everybody engaged, and committed to the mission.
Buchholz said that while she thinks Congress needs to pass legislation making it easier for managers to hold poor performers accountable — though she didn’t say what that should be — she said managers already have many tools that they’re not using:
We have the ability to remove people under [Chapter] 75 actions for performance — we don’t do it. We have the ability to downgrade people, to get them into a job that they can do well. Never seen that in 30 years. So I think there are things that we could do that we’re not actually doing, and we should really contemplate.
But it all starts with better training of supervisors, Wells said.